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Secret Santa Festival of Lights drive-thru in Samson

By Chevi Rabbit For Ponoka News

The Secret Santa Festival of Lights drive-thru was the brainchild of Samson Cree Nation’s Secret Santa Committee.

Dec. 21, 2020, at 5 p.m. is the official opening day for the public to the drive-thru. The Christmas light show is free of charge and in an area of Samson Cree Nation accessible to the public in a subdivision known by the community as “Knots Landing.”

Knots Landing is located just off Hwy. 2A, as soon as you enter Maskwacis from Ponoka. It’s on your left-hand side. It serves as an opportunity for anyone driving by to see the amazing light display.

A total of thirteen homes and a park area have been detonated thanks to local donations and volunteers.

In 2009, the Samson Secret Santa Campaign was initiated. The first year, the committee provided gifts and winter outerwear to 25 local children.

Over the years the number of children supported through this campaign increased exponentially with the highest number being 1,200 children that received gifts.

Committee member Debra Buffalo said, “The Samson Secret Santa is a 100 per cent volunteer organization. Fundraising is done all year long through bingos and various other fundraising ideas and of course donations that we receive from local businesses and organizations and individuals.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee was unable to proceed with the gift-giving to the children. The Secret Santa Committee started brainstorming to see what other options. The committee still wanted to bring some Christmas cheer and came up with the Secret Santa Festival of Lights drive-thru.

“Our Nations have really been struggling lately with the Covid 19 pandemic as well as a lot of losses of community members,” said Buffalo.

“With all the sadness, stress and grief that our community is dealing with at this time, we really wanted to bring some Christmas Spirit to our people.

“The lights are symbolic of hope — only light can bring people out of the darkness … so this is what we are hoping this light display will bring … Hope for better days ahead and that we all get through this together.”

Buffalo says her role in this year’s project is Santa’s second elf, Myrna Buffalo is Santa’s head elf and both ladies have been involved with Samson’s Secret Santa for the last eleven years.

Other elf workers include: Carmella Cutknife, Norine Buffalo, Cassie Buffalo, Jennilee Louis, Michelle Louis, Angela Boysis-Bull, Bonnie Fawcett, Janet Swampy, Lisa Buffalo, Tami Lukinak, Sherrie Crier, Racey Baptiste, Mavis Rowan, Quinton Littlepoplar, Darlene Bruno and Cameron Favel, Micheal Saddleback, Pam Johnson, Kenneth Dusfrene, Don Omeasoo, Sandra Bruno, Jamie Bruno, Rhonda Rowan, Shaylene Buffalo and Sam and Alesha Buffalo.

The committee says many people, businesses and organizations made this initiative a reality, including Burger Baron, Mr. and Mrs. Augustine of Edmonton, Lucinda Johnson, Jordana Littlepoplar, Florence Saddleback, Dolly Rain, Kendra Cut-knife, Heather Buffalo and Cameo Crier.

Community partnerships include Samson Cree Nation Leadership, Samson Community Wellness Department, Samson Income Support, Samson Community Initiatives, Samson Emergency Management, Samson Healthy Families, Samson Consultation Department, Samson Celebrations Committee, Maskwacis Fire Department, John and Jay Nepoose and Jr. Konchinew, Fortis/Davey.